Some six million teenagers in the United States suffer some type of loss of hearing, and this number has increased considerably over the past twenty years. In addition to the use of high-volume MP3 players and cell phones, experts say that teenagers’ involvement in marching band is another possible cause of damage to hearing. As nearly every city high school and college has a marching band, band membership is a quite common activity among teens.
Teenagers and loud sounds. Noise levels are measured in decibels, also written as dB. Noises greater than 85 dB can lead to hearing loss in both children and adults. Marching band includes a variety of instruments, some of which easily cross over that threshold during rehearsals and performances. For example, Duke University students were exposed to decibel levels of 99 over a half hour during drumline practice. However, playing those instruments indoors for rehearsals can be even more harmful to teens’ hearing. Sometimes teens don’t want to reduce the volume of their instruments just because they are inside.
Prevention and protection strategies. An effective solution for reducing sound levels is the use of musicians earplugs. Musicians earplugs are custom-designed to fit an individual’s ear perfectly. However, parents often find them to be expensive. Shorter rehearsal sessions are another good approach to protecting teens hearing, because it breaks up the time for which they are exposed to potentially damaging decibel levels. Band leaders and participants also need to be aware of how important it is to lower the volume of their instruments when practicing indoors. Parents, teens, and band leaders should work together to increase awareness and to implement strategies for protecting the hearing of marching band members.